Thursday, October 15, 2009

Swing Time (1936)

Swing Time
Director: George Stevens
USA 1936
103 min
Starring: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Victor Moore, Helen Broderick, Eric Blore, Betty Furness and Georges Metaxa, among others.

See it on YouTube: link

Lately I have been most too masculine in my choice of films, so I felt I had to watch a Fred & Ginger picture to remind myself and my readers that I am, in fact, still a lady.

I have a DVD box set with four of the couple's RKO pictures, bud sadly this one is not included. Therefore Swing Time was a new experience for me. A lovely experience, in fact, and I think it for the time being is my favorite Fred & Ginger film.

The plot is quite similar to Top Hat (1935) - but who cares about the plot in films like these? Oh, you do? Me too. But it's no disappoinment, the similar factors are those you don't care about anyway. Like re-using actors: if you like the actor, why complain that they have similar roles in another picture? Nice to see more of them.

I'm talking about the refined, eccentric and lisping Eric Blore and the middle aged, urbane cool older friend of the leading lady, Helen Broderick. Broderick even appeared with Astaire on Broadway with The Band Wagon!

Then we have the essential slimy Italian, this time played by Romanian actor Georges Metaxa. He has that kind of a role that Ginger for some reason always ends up almost marrying, because Fred has let her down in some way. In Top Hat she misunderstood him to be already married, in Swing Time she finds out he already has a fiancée. Good enough reason to take a pause from Fred, but why throw yourself in the arms of greasy narcissists? I think she need a few lessons in womanhood.

That much for the plot. I'm confusing, I know, but I don't find it important enough to straighten out (plus you all have probably already seen the film). Now to the good stuff!

The songs are wonderful. Fred sings "The Way You Look Tonight" while accompanying himself on the piano and Ginger washes her hair. (With whipped cream, from what I read in the trivia section on IMDb.) They both sing the jolly "Pick Yourself Up" during a dance class. Fred gives a minstrel show singing "Bojangles of Harlem" with three giant shadows dancing behind him. Itäs all very entertaining and joyful.

But my favorite part of Swing Time is the winter section, with heavy snowflakes filling every inch of the screen. Ginger gets disappointed when she tries to have a romantic moment with Fred, but the fact that he is in love with one woman and engaged to another (without any of them knowing it) destroys his sense for romantic settings.
They sing "A Fine Romance", a song I only have heard Marilyn Monroe sing before, and it's such a lovely scene. The camera work is perfect; the snowy landscape seems almost unreal. (Maybe it was? Was it filmed in a studio? All I know is that winters in Sweden can look just like that, and it's wonderful.)

I hope I look as cute as Ginger Rogers do when I'm angry.

The last scene is simple but superb. That hysterical laughter everyone breaks out into has to be for real, I can't believe anyone can fake such a thing. (For is it anything that really enoys me with feel-good films is that fake laughter the actors are forced to squeeze out, it's unbearable.) I guess it was the last scene filmed, and everyone was tired and silly. That's my explaination. And even if it was fake it got to me, and I found myself with a creepy smile by the end of the film.


Princess Fire and Music said...

I love Swing Time! "A Fine Romance" just might be my favorite song of any musical, ever, because of the way Ginger sings it.

Lolita said...

Princess Fire and Music.
You're right, she brings the right feeling to the song, you really feel her disappointment. Lovely song!

Kim said...

I know Swing Time is one of the most well liked of the Fred & Ginger films but I just didn't enjoy it as much as Top Hat & The Gay Divorcee (the other two I have seen.)

I did love all the music and dancing in Swing Time but I didn't find it as entertaining as the other two films. I think part of the reason is I didn't really like Victor Moore in the role usually played by Edward Everett Horton.

Christopher said...

A Fine Romance is one of my faves too..I like the way Ginger calmly,casualy starts off a song..
.Its like real life :oD

Lolita said...

I also missed E. E. Horton! Why couldn't they have put him in that role instead? I have yet to see The Gay Divorcee ;)

Oh yes, I do that all the time. Nobody thinks you're weird when you suddenly start to sing, if you know how to do the transition right!

Tom said...

Ha ha ha ha. Victor Moore...he was funny in this!!

C.K. Dexter Haven said...

Nice job on those screen caps! I never noticed the rays of sunlight coming through the window in that last scene, and I've watched this movie a lot!

Ginger was never lovelier than in Swing Time.

Maggie said...

Perfect review! You mentioned a lot of things that I would have forgotten. This was the first F&G movie I saw, and I was hooked.
Ella Fitzgerald does a great version of "A Fine Romance" and a few of the songs from Roberta on her album Ella Sings the Jerome Kern songbook. I recommend it!

Anonymous said...

My eyes catch the Last film I watched: Band Wagon.
I don't have seen "Swing Time" but I really enjoy the video. Innocent years, however.
If your next is The Band Wagon.. I will be happy.
Mineli it was a master.

Lolita said...


C. K. Dexter Haven:
Thanks! I am quite a perfectionist when it comes to screen caps, so most often I just do a Google search on the movie to find pictures, hehe. Sp thanks again!
I agree - I just wanted to eat her up when she looks that cranky in the winter scene!

Wow, thanks! It makes me happy to hear that my readers enjoy even the posts I only put together hastily! Thanks for the music recommendations, that's always welcome ;)

Don Corleone:
Oh, really...? Hmm, hadn't thought about writing a post on it, but maybe... ;)

Sebina said...

Swing Time is indeed a wonderful film, as I find all the Astaire & Rogers films - I have the Box set that includes all 10 films within it.

Have a great weekend lady :),

Lolita said...

That makes me wonder why on Earth I ever bought a Fred&Ginger box with only four films!
Thanks, and the same to you! Welcome back from Paris ;)